FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Nearly a year into legalized sales of recreational pot, the two main candidates for Colorado governor mulled the idea of repealing the law in a 9NEWS debate Thursday.
Republican challenger Bob Beauprez (a former congressman) advocated for a statewide vote on repealing the legalized sale of cannabis.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said a vote on repeal would be “premature,” but agreed there is cause for alarm over the effect the drug might have on young people.
Asked if he thought the law should be repealed, Beauprez said he shared the position of a hospital executive who told him, “I think we’re going to have to lead an effort to ask Colorado exactly that question and see if this citizens think this is a step that maybe we’ve gone too far.”
“I think we’re at that point where the consequences that we’ve already discovered from this may be far greater than the liberty, I guess, that the citizens thought they were embracing,” Beauprez said.
“I’m not going to go as far as to say we should lead an effort to make it illegal,” replied Hickenlooper. “But I do think that we have to put more resources to make sure that kids and parents understand that this is not like sneaking a beer out when you’re younger.”
Governors do not have the power under Colorado law to simply call a statewide vote on a ballot issue, but their support of such initiatives can raise the profile and fundraising ability of ballot issue campaigns.
The marijuana industry balked at Beauprez’s suggestion that voters should consider a repeal of the law, known as Amendment 64.
“Bob Beauprez’s statements are misguided,” wrote Mike Elliot of the Marijuana Industry Group. “Repealing Amendment 64 would kill tens of thousands of jobs, destroy thousands of businesses, and return us to a failed policy that emboldens the black market and drug cartels.”
Marijuana advocates are fond of noting that marijuana got more votes than President Obama did in Colorado during the 2012 election, with 55 percent in favor.
However, recent polling has appeared to show at least some degree of regret.
A USA Today/Suffolk University poll last month found that 50 percent of voters now disagree with the decision to legalize pot, while 46 still agreed with the policy.
A vote on repealing legal marijuana could be forced in one of two ways: a two-thirds vote of the state legislature, or a signature-gathering petition.
The relatively low number of voter signatures required (currently 86,000) to force a vote on issues was a major factor in making Colorado the first state in the nation to legalize cannabis sales to adults, drawing some state lawmakers to advocate for a higher number of signatures for ballot initiatives that would amend the state constitution.